Hemp found fertile ground in Romania many centuries ago. In fact, in the Romanian countryside, families of farmers and farmers cultivated the hemp plant using techniques and processing methods that were handed down from generation to generation, giving rise to a rich cultural heritage.

Renowned for its quality, Romanian textile hemp quickly became an economically important resource for the country. However, the almost worldwide prohibition policy which was extended to the entire Cannabis Sativa L. plant also made itself felt in Romania, leading to a rapid decline in the production of textile hemp, without however leading to total abandonment.

The ever-increasing interest in natural fibers and the rediscovery of textile hemp as an eco-sustainable and versatile fabric has rekindled the production of textile hemp in Romania, making it the protagonist of a movement that aims to exploit all its potential and benefits it has to offer .

A journey into the past: the history of textile hemp in Romania

Since ancient times, the population of Romania has been dedicated to the historical cultivation of textile hemp and its processing to produce resistant and robust fabrics. Some of the oldest finds are hemp seeds that were brought to light during excavations in the Oneçti region in Romania. According to experts, the cultivation of these seeds dates back to the Neolithic Cucuteni B culture, from the 7th-6th millennium BC. This ancient story was reported by the Greek historian Herodotus, a scholar who mentioned the production of hemp by populations close to Dacia and Scythia since ancient times. [1]

The discovery of historical finds, however, does not end here. Some hemp seeds were found in the tomb dating back to the Neolithic Kurgan culture near Gurbăneşti, a village about fifty kilometers east of Bucharest, Romania, and dated around 1700 BC. [1]

Even during the medieval period, most peasant houses or manors had hemp plantations at their disposal, with the main objective of obtaining the fiber necessary for the production of fabrics or clothing of various kinds. In the Modern Age, however, Romania became an important producer of textile hemp which was very often marketed to produce military equipment. [2]

Despite strong worldwide prohibition, the popularity of textile hemp in Rome has never completely disappeared. Before 1989, Romania had managed to position itself as the main producer of textile hut fiber in Europe, becoming the fourth largest exporter in the world with its 50,000 hectares of cultivated land. In fact, during the early 1990s the country became famous throughout the world for its production of textile hemp. [2]

After the fall of the Ceaușescu regime, a privatization process began in the state which led to the sale of most of the land suitable for hemp cultivation. These lands were purchased by large Dutch and North American companies in the process of relocating.

In 1995, however, the production of textile hemp suffered a notable decline, mainly for two reasons. On the one hand, there were inadequate administrative policies, and on the other hand, global prohibitionism, which also incorrectly classified industrial hemp as a narcotic, had the upper hand. For these reasons, local farmers and producers have been forced to request numerous types of authorizations to be able to grow and process hemp within the national territory. This bureaucratic process, often too long, has further strengthened the abandonment of the industry, which was already strongly marked. [2]

A step forward towards the future

Trying to return the production of textile hemp to its former splendor was the Romanian National Rural Museum, which in June 2021 organized the first multidisciplinary event centered on the hemp plant.

The meeting proposed an art exhibition that documented in detail the historical production of this natural fiber in the country, including the presentation of artistic installations, performances, conferences and debates on the circular economy, a fundamental aspect when talking about of textile hemp. In fact, recent studies demonstrate how the Cannabis Sativa L. plant is capable of capturing and imprisoning a significant quantity of CO2. [3]

In my opinion, the most interesting meeting for the sector is definitely the "Hemp - back to the future" exhibition set up in collaboration with UniCredit Bank. The event not only introduced to the public the long tradition of textile hemp production in Romania, but also showed all the signs of the rebirth of this sector especially thanks to its versatility. In fact, nowadays hemp can not only be used for the creation of clothes but also to give a new impulse to sustainable design in all its sectors by combining with the circular economy. [2]

This exhibition has become a clear example of what steps need to be taken to promote the rebirth of hemp in Romania. With this clear purpose in mind, the Romanian National Peasant Museum proposed to the public the performance of the international artist Mircea Cantor, winner of the Marcel Duchamp Prize. The museum invited the curator emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, director and co-owner of the Băița Textile Museum, Florica Zaharia, who presented the history of hemp in Romania and Japan. Concluding the event was Oláh Gyárfás, contemporary artist and designer of the PATZAIKIN brand who told the story of his brand and his commitment to bringing textile hemp back into our daily clothing.

Barajul Drăgan-Floroiu, Lunca Vişagului, Romania, Foto di paul mocan su Unsplash

Ancient knowledge revisited in a modern key

The curatorial proposal for the exhibition was put forward by Teodor Frolu who wanted to offer the public an immersive experience where multidisciplinary artistic forms helped to present the documentation on the cultivation, processing and trade of hemp on Roman soil. What we wanted to achieve was a cultural proposal that could tell visitors about the millenary intertwining of knowledge on textile hemp with new production practices. This is why the exhibition presented both the processing methods used in the past in traditional Romanian houses and examples of modern industries that allow the sector to be developed and foster sustainable economic growth in the local community. [4]

One of the sources of inspiration for the exhibition was the traditional production chain of Romanian houses that cultivated the hemp plant and then processed it until obtaining the fiber necessary for the creation of clothes and fabrics in general. The need, at that time, was not to waste anything that the plant had to offer; a production model that today is carried forward by the sustainable circular economy. Valuing this type of production chain led the Museum to create the first CANEPARO hemp cluster in Romania which allows us to appreciate the importance of the insertion of textile hemp as an economic engine for the country starting from the millenary creative cultural resources. Created in 2021 and led by Otilia Frolu, the cluster has 21 members and holds 11 hemp variety licenses. [4, 6]

The Textile Museum in Băiţa opens the way forward

The Baita Fabric Museum also aims to revive the flourishing past of textile hemp in Romania. Born from Floriza Zaharia's project, the Textile Museum aims to raise people's awareness of the importance of hemp as a historical material of value especially for Romanian culture. The route designed by the museum offers visitors the opportunity to discover the beauty of the fabric obtained from textile hemp, but also to be amazed by some valuable hemp clothing items such as the shirt from the Apuseni Mountains and the Pădureni area. [5]

The museum's mission is to collect, preserve and share traditional textile knowledge not only with specialists and enthusiasts, but also with the general public. To achieve this objective, thematic exhibitions are proposed that stimulate the appreciation of hemp as a unique fabric of its kind. It should not be surprising, then, that the museum was born thanks to the recovery of historic Romanian houses where weavers transformed hemp into a weapon of resilience in the face of the adversities of daily life. [5]

Patzaikin: rediscover and revalue

The Romanian brand was born in 2011 from the desire of the founder Ivan Patzaichin, winner of numerous gold and silver medals at the Olympic Games. The objective of Ivan and his team is to promote, firstly at a local level, but then also internationally, his avant-garde design and ecotechnology to revalue artisanal production techniques in conjunction with contemporary design. For this reason, Patzaikin has created an ecosystem where collaborators work in symbiosis in different sectors to process textile hemp and promote the sustainable supply chain, making the historical work of hemp weavers noble. [7]

Ivan Patzaichin, president of the Ivan Patzaichin - Mila 23 Association, together with deputy director Teodor Frolu, curators of the exhibition held in Bucharest, underlined the importance of this ecosystem. The association, founded together with the brand, aims to help the local development of the Danube Delta and other areas of Romania by bringing to light the traditions of the past. The brand works exclusively with local factories, therefore also enhancing the agricultural sector and the artisan tradition of the people. [2]


An elegant fashion brand, which aims to challenge the status quo of fast fashion, which is bringing the tradition of textile hemp back to Romania is the De IONESCU brand.

Founded in 2019 by Romanian designer Ionuț Rus, the brand offers elegant clothing in textile hemp, in particular elegant, military and denim jackets, all strictly 100% hemp, produced by hand and artisanally in Romania. These are jackets with a classic and authentic style, which can easily be combined with different looks, from elegant to casual. Furthermore, the composition of the material guarantees durability over time, and therefore a unique and timeless style that never goes out of fashion. In recent months, the brand has also introduced women's trousers (in linen), is also developing the knitwear part (i.e. knitted clothing) and has also launched its home line (however in other natural fibers such as cotton and linen).

For its creations, the brand uses exclusively textile hemp from Romania. In fact, one of the main objectives of the brand is to revive the long tradition of cultivation and processing of textile hemp in the Transylvania area. In fact, the tradition of textile hemp in this area dates back to the Neolithic period, but even here, hemp has had a troubled history as it is often associated only with its recreational use. The current environmental emergency combined with the fast fashion industry, which as we have seen several times is one of the most polluting industries, is bringing back the need for eco-sustainable materials and natural fibres.

Finally, I also report an interesting anecdote linked to the brand logo. The logo of DeI IONESCU is the cuckoo bird which represents an eternal traveler who never makes his own nest, and this symbolizes the idea of the Eternal Return, just like the textile hemp which returns to the Romanian countryside. [8]

The legislative block and the desire for growth in the textile hemp sector

Currently, there are various government and community aids aimed at developing the circular economy sector, which obviously also includes industrial hemp and its fibre, but this process has been significantly slowed down. The main cause that slows down the creation of a thriving export market is the national legislation which is still inadequate and often contradictory, in addition to the veiled obstructionism of the Central Government. In recent years (2017-2020 data) Romania has been one of the top 5 exporters of industrial hemp products, always preceded by the big three namely France, China and the United States of America. Nowadays, around 2000 hectares of industrial hemp are cultivated in Romania. [9]

The next step is certainly to strengthen its position in the hemp industry, both as a national producer and as an exporter.

Sources and insights:

[1] https://samorini.it/archeologia/europa/canapa-antica-europa/

[2] https://rowmania.ro/canepa-din-romania/

[2] EIHA, International Conference, June 2023

[4] Press release - ”Hemp – back to the future” - 3-27 June, National Peasant Museum in Romania

[5] https://muzeultextilelor.org/expozitii-curente/

[6] https://caneparo.org/

[7] https://patzaikin.com/

[8] https://deionescu.com/

[9] Commodities at a glance: Special issue on industrial hemp, 2023, Link


[F1] Foto di Jonny Gios su Unsplash

[F2] Foto di paul mocan su Unsplash

[F3] Foto di Michael Fischer from Pexel

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